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January 13, 2003 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-01-13

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Monday
January 13, 2003
michigandaily.com/arts
mae@michigandaily.com

gftdftm Ot(dig
ARTS

5A

'25th Hour finds a New York post Sept.1U
By Tara Billik
Daily Arts Writer

~..
Jack is a
little
disoriented
after
deciding to
take control
of his life for
Y'the very first
Courtesy of New
ti ....:.".. " Line
'CHMibT' shows lighter side of Jack
By Jeff Dickerson
Daily Arts Editor

Spile Lee's "25th Hour" focuses
on intense character portrayal and
the nuance of setting, ignoring a
somewhat skimpy plotline. Certainly
deviating from director Spike Lee's
typical cast, the movie surprisingly
deals with the lives of three white
guys in New York City. Still, Lee
stamps his signature on the film with
its alluring emotional intensity,
social commentary and lyrical cine-
matography.
Montgomery Brogan's (Edward
Norton) life as he knows it has ended
after being convicted of major drug
charges and sentenced to seven years
in prison. The rather slow two-and-a
half hours of screen time are devoted
to Monty's last day of freedom in
which he is tormented by his greed,
guilt and the suspicion that his beau-
tiful girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario
Dawson, "Men in Black II") was the
one who tipped off the cops. He

I am Jack's park bench.

develop their roles through lengthy
dialogue-driven scenes. Norton is
perfectly cast as a tough, sophisti-
cated man who wouldn't last a day
in the maximum-security prison due
to his pretty face. In

"About Schmidt," based on Louis Begby's 1996 novel and
the third film from Alexander Payne, is, as the title indicates,
about Warren Schmidt, a 66-year-old recently retired insur-
ance actuary who resides in Omaha. Schmidt, played with
gracious subtlety by Jack Nicholson in his best role in over a
decade, is a man who slowly comes to understand his entire
life is all for naught.
His retirement plan is to travel across the country in his 35-
foot Winnebago (The Adventurer) with Helen (June Squibb,
"Far From Heaven"), his wife of 42 years. But with nothing to
do, Warren starts to re-evaluate his life's work, constantly nag-
ging about his wife's annoying habits (she interrupts him, col-
lects trinkets and only eats at new restaurants) and getting
flustered about his daughter's (Hope Davis, "Home Alone")
upcoming marriage and his soon-to-be son-in-law (Dermot
Mulroney, "My Best Friend's Wedding").
The rich characters of "Schmidt" are the byproduct of

spends time with his
father (Brian Cox) and
meets with his long-
time buddies Jakob
(Philip Seymour Hoff-
man), a high school
teacher, and Frank
(Barry Pepper, "61*"),
a Wall Street broker.
Frank clearly explains
Monty's only three

25TH HOUR
At Showcase and
Quality 16
Touchstone

every close-up, his
eyes suggest an over-
whelming amount of
pain and suffering as
he counts down his
final hours. Hoffman is
vulnerable and sympa-
thetic, expertly juxta-
posed with Pepper's
cocky, yet loyal, char-
delivers another excellent

at his image in the mirror where the
inscription "fuck you" reads in the
corner. This incites a poetic inter-
lude of quick cuts and an energetic
monologue where he curses every
racial, economic and social class
that dwells in the city. Rodrigo Pri-
eto's artistic cinematography
becomes evident here, as well as in
the multiple overlapping edits that
extend a dreamlike quality of the
film. However, though well directed,
these interruptions are rather obtru-
sive to the overall flow of the film.
"25th Hour" seems a requiem for
Monty Brogan, as well as for the
city of New York. Lee daringly
throws the destruction of post-Sept.
11 in our faces with glimpses of bin
Laden "Wanted: Dead or Alive"
posters and the actual site of the
World Trade Center itself. A magnif-
icent scene takes the camera high up
into a window of a building that
overlooks Ground Zero. The scene is
truly haunting, appropriately res-
onating the tone of the entire film.

couurtesy f Neuw Line
At least someone's smiling about this picture.
gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the unapologetic in-
law), the most memorable person is a 6-year-old Tanzanian
boy named Ndugu (never seen on screen), who Warren
decides to sponsor after seeing an ad on television. Through
letters to his underpriveleged foster child (the most amusing
parts of the film), Warren is able to vent his frustrations with

options: go to prison, run away or put
a bullet in his head. The three guys,
along with Naturelle, spend Monty's
last evening at a nightclub where
Monty's supplier wants to meet with
him one last time. Also, an enter-
taining subplot involving Jakob's
love interest, his 16-year-old student
(Anna Paquin), weaves its way into
the narrative.
Lee grants his actors ample time to

acter. Cox

performance as a grieving father,
while Paquin plays the symbol of
innocence as the naive, free-spirited
student.
The grittiness of New York nearly
becomes another character in the
film. Lee's distinctiveness shines
with commentary scenes reminiscent
of "Do the Right Thing." In one
memorable sequence, Monty peers

Payne's direction and Begby's novel, an ensem-
ble of personalities that feels more like a group
of distant relatives than actors. The symbiotic
culmination produces characters that feel
authentic, not fabricated. It's no surprise that
Payne is the brilliant mind behind 1999's dark1
comedy "Election."
Unlike "Election," "About Schmidt" plays
for more than just comedic effect. For every
joke, there is an immediate reminder of the
overarching tragedy of the story. Warren com-
plains about every facet of his marriage, then his

ABOUT SCHMIDT
At Showcase and
Quality 16
New Line

his new life. Unknowningly to Schmidt, little
Ndugu becomes his most appreciative friend.
Nicholson, following a string of embel-
lished roles in recent years, opts this time for
a more minimalist approach, wisely letting
Payne's script drive his character. It's refresh-
ing to see Nicholson's virtuoso acting chops
being used to form a real character rather
than a caricature.
Payne and his longtime screenwriting part-
ner Jim Taylor have taken several liberties

wife dies.

Following the unexpected death of Helen, Warren hits the road
in his gas guzzling Winnebago in an :attempt to prevent his
daughter's wedding. For a while "About Schmidt" becomes a
road movie, as the protagonist seeks some kind of meaning in
his life on a sort of literal and metaphorical road trip across the
Plains states.
Despite all of the quirky characters in the film (Kathy Bates

with Begby's novel, primarily in changing the title character
from an upscale New Yorker to a humble Nebraskan. It's a
just alteration, as the Omahan Schmidt seems more accessi-
ble than a wealthy Manhattanite.
"About Schmidt" delicately balances comedy and drama
and creates a film that is not only amusing, but heart-break-
ing. This complex case of cinematic bi-polarism is what
makes Schmidt, and the film, so memorable.

Another Dickens tale comes to life

By Matthew Wright Hollerbach
For the Daily
You either like Charles Dickens or
you don't. Whether you subscribe to
the former or latter, this movie will not
change your mind. Those who like
Dickens (whose fairly detailed work is
indicative of the fact that he was paid
by the word) will enjoy this richly
detailed film. "Nicholas Nickleby" is
one of Dickens' earlier novels and does
not necessarily stand out from the rest
in any particular way, except for its
exceptional length.
It is the story of a young man,
Nicholas Nickleby (Charlie Hunnam,
"Abandon"), who tries to make a living
for his sister and widowed mother. His
primary obstacle in this pursuit is his
uncle (Christopher Plummer, "The
Insider"), a more venge-
ful incarnation of 0
Scrooge. Through him,
Nickleby finds his way
to a boys' boarding
school as a teacher. He NICI
then discovers that the NIC
headmaster, Wackford At Sho
Squeers (Jim Broad- Qua
bent), is abusive to his
pupils and, in particular, Unite
to an older boy servant
named Smike (Jamie Bell, "Billy
Elliot"), whom Nickleby befriends.
After a clash with Squeers, the two
leave the school and encounter a trav-
eling theater troupe that provides them
with temporary employment until

Courtesy0 UofTUni ists

No, I'm not an orphan. Whatever gave you that idea?

Nickleby learns that his uncle has been
mistreating his sister in London.
Following a series of encounters
and meetings (and the introduction of

HOLAS
KLEBY
wcase and
lity 16
ed Artists

nearly a dozen new char-
acters), Nickleby works
up the courage to con-
front his uncle. The twist
ending is nothing new,
though most will find it
satisfying, and the ulti-
mately happy turnout is
what qualifies this film
as a "comedy." Do not
be fooled, however. As
with most of Dickens'

ters that pop memorably off the screen.
Most notable are Broadbent's perform-
ance as the comically cruel Squeers and
Bell's as the pitiably lovable Smike.
However, there is an inevitable issue
that arises when Dickensian heroes
attempt to cross from page to screen. In
novels with such richly drawn support-
ing characters, the central ones must be
pillars of simplicity and serve to simply
hold the story together.
Hunnam does a fine job in the role
of Nickleby and, again, this is a mat-
ter of your prior opinion regarding
Dickens. There are also issues of
adaptation, which are inevitably
raised. Leaving these questions
behind, this picture (nominated for a
Best Picture Golden Globe in the
musical/comedy category), though
not perfect, is a wonderful interpreta-
tion and portrayal of the story.

"comedies," this story contains a
rather marked juxtaposition of levity
and seriousness; it just happens to end
on a good note.
The picture is richly implemented,
with detailed sets and fantastic charac-

REEL SHORTS

STAR TREK: NEMESIS: "Star
Trek" fans rejoice and whimper, for
the newest addition to the "Genera-
tion" films has arrived. The latest
film, "Nemesis," contains all the
familiar members of the Enterprise
crew: Picard, Geordi, "Number 1"
(Riker), Data, Worf, Crusher and
Deanna Troi. The film opens with
the assassination of the Romulan
Senate and much turmoil in the Neu-
tral Zone; however, there is- talk of

While "Nemesis" does have its
share of action, humor and surprise, it
certainly does not compare to other
Generation films such as "First Con-
tact" and "Generations." The film may
appeal to those who don't consider
themselves a "trekkie" as "Nemesis"
does not assume the viewer has much
prior knowledge about the series, or
past films. Those outside the cult fan-
base may still find some merit in
"Nemesis." * * *

making her living as a maid in an
upscale Manhattan hotel. Instead of
glass slippers, Marisa is trying on an
expensive dress that belongs to a
wealthy guest of the hotel when
Christopher Marshall (Ralph Fiennes)
walks into the room, and she walks
instantly into his heaft. Marshall is no
prince, but rather senatorial candidate
Charming, and this extreme difference
in social classes is where the conflict
comes in. Marisa must now try to hide

CHANGE
THINGS..
find out how:
INFORMATION SESSION Monday, January 1 3 ,7:30 p . m .

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